Silent PC Review is dedicated to reviews, news and information about acoustics of computers and components, as well as their energy efficiency and thermal performance.

Intel's new Thermal/Fan Control Motherboards

Intel's announcement today about the release of 4 new chipsets and 6 new motherboards failed to mention that all these boards utilize the ADI 1027 dBCool thermal control chip mentioned in our IDF coverage report. Intel says their Precision Cooling Technology provides these benefits:

  • Fan speeds adjust real time according to system temperatures
  • Reduces unnecessary noise & energy consumption
  • OS-independent – not affected by a software failure or virus
  • Separate thermal zones for CPU & system temperature
  • Default setting programmed into BIOS
  • Controlled by an advanced management ASIC
  • Vantec's "Stealth" 420W Power Supply

    Power
    Heatsink maker Vantec branched out with their new line of high power "Stealth" power supplies recently. We put their 420W model, the VAN-420A, through its paces with all 3 of its fan blazing. An unfortunate accident with our new PSU Load Tester addition to our test bench blew up one sample but did not set any blazes. Read the Vantec 420A PSU review here.

    OCZ Claims Eliminator Heatsink "Eliminates" fan!

    OCZ's pitch: "By using a heatsink constructed of 100% skived copper, the P4 Eliminator can keep your P4 running cool, "eliminating" the need for a fan! The P4 Eliminator utilizes high grade copper and large surface area to effectively reduce the extreme thermal temperatures associated with Intel Pentium 4 processors." I personally do not think this heatsink can sufficiently cool a P4 without a fan, but the large fully copper surface area may allow cooler operation of hot P4 cpu's even with quieter, slower spinning fans.

    NEC brings Mate computer to US market

    We reported on the small, silent NEC Mate back in May. At the time, the model was only available in Japan. Looks like that has changed. The computer is now available from NEC America in a new, eco-friendly design. Relying on an external power supply and a 900MHz Transmeta Crusoe chip, this computer looks to be a great choice for silent office computing.

    Hard Drive Roundup at Hardware Analysis

    A roundup review of "all recent 5400 and 7200-rpm harddisks from IBM, Maxtor, Western Digital, Seagate and Samsung with a focus on noise and heat production as well as overall performance." This is an interesting review by Hardware Analysis, a site that is new to us. The noise measurements are credible, though non-standard and appears to consider only idle noise (nitpick: the decibel scale is not well-explained). No surprises for SPCR readers: Seagate Barracuda IVs come out best in the quiet department, with a big margin over other 7200rpm drives.

    A silent & musical in-vehicle Mini-ITX PC

    Yet another Mini-ITX project! Reader "burnin" built a PC around an VIA EPIA 800 Mini-ITX board and installed it in his car to play music.

    With the hardware and software that is available today it is easy to create a PC to install in a vehicle to play all your music files from a hard drive.

    PC in a Breadbox

    Do-It-Yourself Systems
    The marriage of a VIA EPIA 5000 Mini-ITX based system and a translucent blue breadbox from IKEA results in a small desktop PC that looks like a cousin to the iMac. Naturally it is extremely quiet, having only one fan at 4.3V (in the flex-atx Seasonic PSU) and a single platter Seagate Barracuda IV suspended with elastic. Read about the PC in a Breadbox.

    Shuttle SS40G HTPC Case Mod

    Anyone interested in Home Theater PCs should definitely check out this case mod that integrates a 7" widescreen LCD with a Shuttle SS40G. The resulting solution allows the HTPC to be controlled without disturbing the video to the projector, or simply to watch movies on the LCD screen itself. Very slick modification.

    Shuttle SS40G hard drive quieting trick

    For those people who own, or are interested in purchasing a Shuttle SS40G SFF PC, you may be interested in this description of a trick to quiet the hard drive. The author started with a Seagate Barracuda IV drive and then used credit card material in place of metal for the brackets to eliminate the metal-to-metal connection. Perhaps not as easy or clean as a decoupled hard drive, but useful for the SFF computers where space is always at a premium.

    Comment on Gateway PSU shown in IDF article

    Reader Vance, a PC tech in one of the Gateway Country Stores, comments on the PSU pictures in IDF, Part 1:

    Since the at least the pentium 90 era Gateway has used that kind of power supply design (see here for example) on the majority of their systems. They use fairly quiet 80mm or 92mm fans and some of the earlier P2-P3 slot 1 systems had rubber fan mounts and a giant plastic shroud hanging for the bottom of the PSU that encompassed a giant fanless slot 1 heatsink.

    The 700XL case pictured in the IDF article is a nice design -- nearly completely tool-less to open, with a thick plastic skin/shell so it runs fairly quiet.

    Nexus NX-3000 PSU: 5 dBA quieter than the best!?

    From the people who brought you Q-Technology comes a new PSU called the Nexus NX-3000. The new model is claimed to idle at 22 dBA, which they say is 5 dBA quieter than the quietest fan-equipped ATX/PS2 PSU. Yet with high efficiency and fan intelligence, it stays cool with good airflow under high loads. Review samples for SPCR are on their way; for those seeking more information now, check out the Nexus web page.

    Report from San Jose: IDF Fall 2002, part 2

    The Silent Front
    Well, not exactly. A handful of companies Silicon Valley does not make. Still, it is probable that of all the press at IDF, Silent PC Review is the only one reporting about the State of PC Noise. Part Two of SPCR's coverage of IDF fall 2002 includes meetings and discussions with Seasonic and Molex, and offsite visits to Antec and Silicon Valley Compucycle.

    Sandbagging for fun and HDD silence

    A unique aluminum sandwich variation by enthusiast bluehat, with a large bag of sand below and above. I bet it does silence the drive -- heck, it's practically buried, it ought to be silent!

    Unfortunately, not a solution that's practical for everyone. Most people do want their drive in the case & they may have a hard time justifying 20Kg bags of sand in their room (especially to others). The final touch of a tie-dye cloth cover may persuade, though.

    Seriously, I am sure bluehat's hard drives are completely silent; mine are not. Here's a challenge: can this idea can be brought into the case?

    NRF's PC made Quiet

    A personal DIY page on a cooling/silencing project by reader "nrf":

    "I'm really researching two topics at once at this point: cooling and quieting, and they are usually at odds with each other..." and after all the mods and changes, he's "looking forward to quiet, peaceful enjoyment of my setup!"

    Scoop on VIA's next gen mini-ITX: multimedia-rich EPIA-M

    VIA will soon be releasing a new generation of mini-ITX boards called the EPIA M -- 'M' for multimedia. Preliminary tips suggest that "this new EPIA M series is a Babe!"

    The CLE266 chipset apparently makes a huge difference for DVD playback. Basically it's the same marvelously tiny layout as the current boards (one of which we reviewed back in May), but with USB2.0, 1394, smooth DVD playback, a better TV out, LAN, DDR266 and 6 channel surround sound. It also has better graphics than the Trident Blade on the PLE133. In short, it addresses all the shortcomings of the current EPIA for home PCs.

    EPIA M sounds perfect for the role of living room entertainment center PC being pushed by Microsoft (and Intel) these days -- and can easily be packaged into a virtually silent case. EPIA M boards are scheduled to be shown at the VIA Technology Forum in Taipei this year (October 8-9, 2002).